The Story of Sophia from the Gnostic Texts

By: Ranilo Abando (Manila, October 16, 2020) ***

There is a story about an enigmatic woman named Sophia in The Apocryphon of John, which is one of the Second Century Christian gnostic manuscripts found in the Nag Hammadi Library that was discovered in in the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945.  The manuscripts are currently housed in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, Egypt.  The following is an extract from The Apocryphon of John manuscript: 


Sophia is a very high spirit, an emanation (along with her consort, the Christ) of her mother, the Elder Sophia.  They all live in the spiritual land beyond the earth called the Pleroma.  Gazing down into the world of matter, the younger Sophia sees reflected there a transcendent light.  Drawn by desire to possess this light and duplicate its image she leaves her heavenly consort, the Christ, and descends into the world of matter.

There she rushes about, hovering to and fro, trying to impart life to the chaotic inert elements.  Finally she becomes helplessly immersed in mud, unable to extricate herself.   When Sophia goes about her task of creating, she can only produce a creature of the lower order – Ildabaoth  (Ilda = child; Baoth = chaos) — an odd, lion-faced entity, who becomes the creator of our physical world.  When she sees the imperfection that she has produced, she realizes she has acted in ignorance.  She escapes from the lower space and builds a strong barrier, or veil, between the world of spirit and the world of matter.  Ildabaoth is, therefore, the “son of darkness” who cannot see that there exists anything above him.

Ildabaoth is ambitious and proud but despite his many imperfections he has captured some of the pure light from his mother Sophia.  In his domain he produces seven sons, declaring himself the highest God, demanding they do only his bidding and exalting himself above them.

In his great ambition Ildabaoth decides to create a man after an image he had seen reflected in the waters of space.  He employs all the powers of his various creations, but the creature proves a failure, helpless and ignorant and crawling on the ground like a worm.  So he is forced to call on the help of his mother who sends him an impulse of divine light. This animates the man and he rises to life.

But seeing the newly-made creation soar higher and higher because of the spiritual light from Sophia, Ildabaoth flies into a rage of jealousy. Angrily staring into the deep abyss of matter, his image is reflected back to him and there arises a serpent with eyes flashing red.

My interpretation of the story of Sophia is the following:

I think the manuscript is telling us that Sophia symbolizes the descended human spirit of each and everyone of us.  The “Christ”, described as the consort of Sophia and obviously not referring to Jesus of the four gospels, symbolizes a person’s main seat of consciousness that permanently dwells in the realm above the human mind column.  That main seat of consciousness is called the “consort” because the human seat of consciousness was originally part of it before they got separated in order for the human seat of consciousness to probe the depths of the mind column.  Apparently, those two seats of consciousness are still connected somehow by that metaphorical “river coming out of the Garden of Eden” which seems to be like some sort of an information highway connecting each of us to his or her own main seat of consciousness residing above the mind column. 

Because our separated human spirit (Sophia) has developed a strong desire to achieve enlightenment (transcendent light) through experience, it descended down to its own lower mind, particularly the portion that builds the virtual physical world.  Unfortunately, this physical world created by our own lower mind is entrapping and our seat of consciousness found it very hard to be extricated from there.

Ildabaoth represents a human being’s lower mind.  It is described as a monster because partly it has a refined composition and partly composed of matter from the primordial singularity (chaos).  Because of its very high chaos composition, the ancients often represent it as the world serpent.  It is lion-faced  – because it has motivation, the inner will as expressed by the beast aspect of the lower mind.   

Because our lower mind is still being supplied by that information highway coming from above, it is empowered to execute programs of the unsavory nature – in the beast aspect of the mind.  The lower mind is the one that built and evolved the human hominid body during the past millions of years.  Those physical homonids remained savage and ignorant for many many years, until it was civilized by agents from the higher mind realities, awakening and empowering the thinking aspect of their once slumbering hominid minds. 

The story of Sophia is the story of each and everyone of us.


That’s some kind of deep thought.  You can try to digest it again some other time and do a little bit of cross-referencing.  Thank you for your attention.

(Thanks to for the photo above)

Published by rabando

I am a Filipino and a geologist by profession but I have also been an ardent searcher for answers to the fundamental questions of human existence ever since 42 years ago. It has been a long, lonely and difficult journey. Why are we here? Where did we come from? What on earth is this world where I found my self in? Surprisingly, I found out that the answers are right there under our noses. There just need to be some adjustments in the way people think.

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